Les Malezer - 21 March 2011
Press release - Les Malezer - International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - 21 March 2011
Australia is not doing enough to eliminate racial discrimination
The Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA) calls upon the Government of Australia to take a more prominent and active position on the elimination of racism in Australia.
There are many areas which are in need of attention, at the highest levels in law in Australia, to the details of disadvantage and poverty at the local levels.
While Australia participated actively in the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and signed on to this treaty in 1966 it has not shown itself to be a dedicated and committed force against racial discrimination.
In 2011 we are facing a number of extreme examples of the failure of the government to take action.
Australia fails to ratify Article 4a of the race convention
The international treaty for the elimination of racial discrimination has been signed and ratified by Australia but the government still refuses to ratify the provision on racial vilification.
Article 4a reads the State Parties to the Convention:
"(a) Shall declare an offence punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin, and also the provision of any assistance to racist activities, including the financing thereof;"
As a result persons committing racial vilification in Australia are not breaking the law.
It is a long way away from the desired policy of 'zero tolerance' of racism.
Australia presented its position as follows:
"The Government of Australia ... declares that Australia is not at present in a position specifically to treat as offences all the matters covered by article 4 (a) of the Convention. Acts of the kind there mentioned are punishable only to the extent provided by the existing criminal law dealing with such matters as the maintenance of public order, public mischief, assault, riot, criminal libel, conspiracy and attempts. It is the intention of the Australian Government, at the first suitable moment, to seek from Parliament legislation specifically implementing the terms of article 4 (a)."
Australia's Constitution has discriminatory provisions
The highest court in Australia has failed to confirm that the 'race power' contained in Section 51 of the Constitution provides protection against racism.
We saw that become truth in the Hindmarsh Bridge case when the government withdrew heritage protection laws designed for the benefit and equality of Aboriginal people.
It also became evident in 2007 when the national government suspended the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act to deny the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory access to the courts or fair treatment in accordance with the rule of law.
Full-time race commissioner
The race commissioner in Australia is still a part time position despite growing and more frequent instances of racial conflicts occurring in Australia.
No anti-racism strategy
The Government of Australia has refused to ratify the Durban Declaration and the Program of Action, and refuses to participate in the Durban Review processes.
While there are specific problems of a political nature that erupted during these important world events, the government still has an obligation to the many racial, ethnic and cultural groups in Australia to participate in global efforts to eradicate racism and to adopt commitments at the international level to objectively and strategically address the continuing racial discrimination in Australia.
CERD Reports are ignored
Since 1999 the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has produced six specific reports on Australia and on each occasion called upon the Government of Australia to comply with its obligations under the convention.
These reports and recommendations have been completely ignored.
Much needed reforms in the area of land rights and native title, and in political participation in the governance of Aboriginal affairs, are not addressed and the government continues to forge deeply divisive policies into Australian society leading to greater despair, dispossession and disempowerment.
FAIRA refers in particular to the ongoing impoverishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia and their specific needs to gain political, economic, social and cultural equality through special and concrete measures.
The lack of purpose, of objectives and targets, and strategies means the government is unable to address the disadvantages and create equality.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are left without any hope and without any means to engage with the government in seeing or accounting for realistic and humane targets for non-discrimination.
On this international day, FAIRA calls for the national government, supported by the State and Territory Governments to review its current policy-less status and establish the steps towards an anti racism strategy in this country.
In particular, we seek that the government establish an anti-discrimination strategy which is focussed upon the situation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and which gives definition to the purposes of special and concrete measures as defined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Contact: 0419 710720
Email: <[email protected]>
STATEMENT BY GROUP OF UN HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERTS TO MARK INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
Recognition, Justice and Development: A Roadmap to Achieve Full Equality for People of African Descent
18 March 2011
Following is a statement by a group of UN independent human rights experts to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is commemorated on 21 March 2011:
GENEVA - "Recognition, justice and development, three key steps to achieve full equality for people of African descent; three steps to mark 2011, the International Year for People of African Descent, and today, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
We need to recognize that, regrettably, racism and racial discrimination against people of African Descent remain embedded in our societies.
People of African descent continue to face discrimination as a result of historical imbalances and injustices particularly in education, health, employment and housing. They continue to be victims of generalized racism and racial discrimination. Societies are not necessarily aware of the widespread marginalization and social exclusion that people of African descent face in everyday life due to the absence of appropriate tools to recognize and assess their situation, including reliable statistics and data. We need this data not only to identify the persons and groups affected by racial discrimination, but also to better understand the nature and extent of the inequalities they face.
No country is free from racial discrimination in the administration of justice.
We need to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of people of African descent in the administration of justice, thereby redressing disparities which can be partially explained by the continued existence of structural and institutional racism.
Inequalities in all aspects of daily life of people of African descent, demand our continued urgent attention. They not only persist regarding access to employment and promotion or educational attainment, but also seep into the provision of housing, health services, access to political decision making and judicial systems.
Subtle, but ever present, structural discrimination or institutionalized racism are part of everyday existence. They are regrettably not only accepted as part of the culture within public institutions or private enterprises, but also within the wider society.
The situation of women and girls of African descent who often suffer multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of their descent and gender must not be forgotten. They are regularly more marginalized and discriminated in comparison to men in key areas such as education, public and political life, health, and access to labour markets. They remain particularly vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking, and racial abuse and violence.
Invaluable contributions to the economic, social, cultural, civil and political life of society have been made by people of African descent. Their brave efforts to overcome prejudice, racism and injustice have contributed to improving the freedom and equal rights of all peoples.
We need to integrate the insights, experience and expertise of people of African descent, empowering them to develop policies and practices to eliminate discrimination against people of African descent and realize their own aspirations.
Meaningful participation, empowerment, equality and non-discrimination are central features of a human rights-based approach to development. Racial discrimination against people of African descent impedes development.
The diversity of cultures, languages and customs of people of African descent weaves a rich tapestry of personal stories across the globe. We celebrate their contribution to our multi-ethnic and multicultural societies with a vision to continue striving for equal opportunities for all.
Recognition, Justice and Development: a roadmap to achieve full equality for people of African descent."
The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Githu Muigai:
The Chair of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, Mirjana Najcevska: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/groups/african/4african.htm
The Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Anwar Kemal: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/index.htm
The Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall: